Coluccio Salutati

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Coluccio Salutati
(illustration from a codex in the Biblioteca Laurenziana , Florence)

Coluccio Salutati (also Lino Coluccio di Pierio di Salutati ; born February 16, 1331 in Stignano near Buggiano in Valdinievole, between Lucca and Pistoia ; † May 4, 1406 ) was an Italian humanist , administrative lawyer and politician . Between 1375 and 1406 he was Chancellor of the Republic of Florence . Salutati was already one of the most influential scholars in Italy during his lifetime .


Salutati became a notary in Bologna after studying law . After his family had to leave Bologna, he was probably chancellor of Todi in 1367 and, in the same capacity, of Lucca in 1371 . In the meantime he became assistant to Francesco Bruni , the secretary of Pope Urban V. During this time he briefly met Francesco Petrarca , whom Salutati tried to persuade to visit the papal court . In 1375 Salutati was elected Chancellor of Florence , the most influential position in the Republic of Florence ; he held this office for more than 30 years until his death in 1406.

Politician and philosopher

Salutati was a politician, in his outlook he embodied the liberalism of the bourgeoisie. His greatest political success as Chancellor of the Republic of Florence was to save the city from the conquest by Giangaleazzo Visconti of Milan .

He was educated in the Artes Liberales and in the philosophy of the Middle Ages , but through preoccupation with the ancient authors he became a staunch humanist. Even in his day, Vergerio described him as the most outstanding author in Latin. Salutati himself was a great admirer of the Italian poet and historian Petrarch . His knowledge of ancient literature and philosophy - his library comprised 800 scrolls - can be derived from his works: In Latin it is mainly Virgil's Aeneid and Cicero , while Greek authors, on the other hand, he used from translations rather than read himself. As the small number of references to Homer and Plato shows, he hardly knew any Greek. However, his philhellenism led him to set up a chair for the Greek language in Florence, to which he appointed the Greek Manuel Chrysoloras in 1397 . Chrysolora's most famous pupil was to become Leonardo Bruni , later himself Chancellor of Florence and translator of Plato , Aristotle , Democritus and Plutarch .

Salutati's rediscovery of Cicero's letters Ad familiares , which changed the contemporary image of Cicero considerably, was significant. As an admirer of Petrarch, he made a contribution to the preservation and publication of his work Africa .

In his philosophical endeavors Salutati was even less systematic than Petrarch; in his emphasis on ethical aspects he agrees with the humanists of the fourteenth century. The discussion of the relationship between vita contemplativa and vita activa is important for him . Salutati does not reject the vita contemplativa, but he sees its limits in the inner-worldly area: Full contemplation of God is only possible for man in the hereafter, in this life it is precisely the vita activa in daily dealings with one another that must promote the ethical conduct of human life.

Salutati was a practical, political thinker. Concern for family and friends and for the state was especially godly to him. On the other hand, 60 years later, Marsilio Ficino , for whom it is clear that God can only be reached in thought and that man can only reach happiness and perfection through this path, is completely different .


Salutati's writings are very extensive. They include politically oriented works as well as philosophical and literary allegorizing writings. Of fundamental importance for gaining insight into Salutati's opinions and actions is his extensive corpus of letters ( Epistolario ), with which he places himself in the tradition of famous ancient epistolographs such as Cicero and Seneca, but also in the succession of Petrarch.

  • Epistolario
  • Invectiva, 1403
  • De saeculo et religione, 1381
  • De fato, fortuna et casu, 1396-1399
  • De nobilitate legum et medicinae, 1399 (On the primacy of law over medicine as a legal answer to the panegyric Quaestio […], que scientiarum vel artium prefulget: an medicine an vel., Published by Bernhardinus Florentinus around 1390 in the occidental dispute between faculties ( disputa delle arti ) legis , which postulated a primacy of medicine)
  • De tyranno, 1400
  • De laboribus Herculis, unfinished

Text editions and translations

  • Stefano U. Baldassarri, Rolf Bagemihl (eds.): Coluccio Salutati: Political Writings . Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Massachusetts) 2014, ISBN 978-0-674-72867-7 (critical edition with English translation)
  • Teresa De Robertis et al. (Ed.): De verecundia. Tractatus ex Epistola ad Lucilium prima . Mandragora, Firenze 2010, ISBN 978-88-7461-167-6 (critical edition with Italian translation)
  • Concetta Bianca (Ed.): Coluccio Salutati: De fato et fortuna. Olschki, Firenze 1985, ISBN 88-222-3355-7 (critical edition)
  • Tina Marshall, Ronald G. Witt (Eds.): Coluccio Sautati: On the World and Religious Life . Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Massachusetts) 2014, ISBN 978-0-674-05514-8 (edition with English translation)
  • Peter Michael Schenkel (Ed.): Coluccio Salutati: From the priority of jurisprudence or medicine. De nobilitate legum et medicinae. Fink, Munich 1990, ISBN 3-7705-2601-5 (edition with German translation and commentary)
  • Berthold Louis Ullman (Ed.): Colucii Salutatis De laboribus Herculis. Thesaurus Mundi, Zurich 1951 (critical edition)


  • Berthold Louis Ullman: The Humanism of Coluccio Salutati. Antenore, Padua 1953
  • Hans Baron : The Crisis of the Early Renaissance. Civic Humanism and Republican Liberty in Age of Classicism and Tyranny. Revised one-volume edition. Princeton University Press, Princeton 1955, 1967.
  • Eckhard Keßler: The problem of early humanism. Its philosophical significance in Coluccio Salutati (= humanistic library , series I, volume 1). Fink, Munich 1968.
  • Teresa De Robertis, Giuliano Tanturli, Stefano Zamponi (eds.): Coluccio Salutati e l'invenzione dell'Umanesimo. Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, November 2, 2008–30 gennaio 2009. Mandragora, Firenze 2008, ISBN 978-88-7461-124-9
  • Ronald G. Witt: Hercules at the Crossroads. The Life, Works, and Thought of Coluccio Salutati. Duke University Press, Durham 1983, ISBN 0-8223-0527-5


  • Armando Nuzzo: Lettere di stato di Coluccio Salutati, cancellierato fiorentino (1375–1406). 2 volumes. Istituto storico italiano per il medio evo, Rome 2008, ISBN 978-88-89190-50-0 (list of initials)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Revilo P. Oliver: Plato and Salutati . In: The Johns Hopkins University Press . No. 71 , 1940, p. 315 (English).
  2. ^ A b Richard B. Donovan: Salutati's Opinion of Non-Italian Latin Writers of the Middle Ages . In: Studies in the Renaissance . No. 14 , 1967, p. 1 (English).
  3. ^ Rudolf Peitz, Gundolf Keil: The 'Decem quaestiones de medicorum statu'. Observations on the medical class of the 14th and 15th centuries. In: Specialized prose research - Crossing borders. Volume 8/9, 2012/2013 (2014), pp. 283–297, here: p. 284.